SAAM’s Best Friends: Animals in Art and at Home

Recreating artworks at home with your pets

Amy Fox
Social Media and Digital Content Specialist
April 6, 2020
A recreation of a drypoint study of a dog by Jessie A. Walker.

Jessie A. Walker, Yosa, a Japanese Spaniel, n.d., drypoint, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chicago Society of Etchers, 1935.13.368. Recreation by an SI colleague and their dog, Millie.

Hello from my living room, which is doubling as my office. My beloved—and very vocal—dog, Penelope, is not happy about this arrangement. She does not like this “working” habit, and considers my laptop her competition. We at the Smithsonian American Art Museum have been thinking about what this intersection of home and work means for many people around the world, and how that relates to our work at a museum.

We’re thankful to be able to stay connected, and it seems that each meeting begins or ends with a gentle, “and...how are you doing?”

Often the response mentions a beloved companion animal. An admission that our dog has been a wonderful distraction, or how the cat would appreciate a bit of alone time (or, is surprisingly attentive). As we join a video chat, sometimes a small squawk will interrupt and prompt a flurry of “Ooh, who has a bird? Will you show us?” We're all getting a glimpse into the sometimes secret lives of our colleagues. Pets, yes, but also children who need a little homework help—or a hug—or perhaps a suggestion that someone has a green thumb as evidenced by a collection of houseplants in a corner or a flower-filled bower outside a window.

Because at SAAM everything eventually comes back to American art, some of us have been inspired to model our sweet, sassy, bored, annoyed, sleepy, amusing pets after favorite artworks in our collection. We offer them as amusement and inspiration, and as evidence of the creativity and sense of humor we appreciate in one another. 

We hope you enjoy this glimpse into our lives, and we invite you to capture your dogcat / bird / fish / horse / plant / rock in an homage to a favorite artwork.  Tag us on social media with @AmericanArt and #atSAAM.

A recreation of a painting by Stephen James Ferris of a man playing the lute near his attentive dog

Stephen James Ferris, Musician and Dog, 1893, etching, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the National Museum of American History, Division of Graphic Arts, Smithsonian Institution, 1971.180. Recreation by Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell.

A recreation of an artwork with a man and dog in silhouette

Auguste Edouart, Boy with Dog, n.d., paper and ink on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Florence R. Perry, 1981.172.31. Recreation by Brian Weiss with Dillon the Dog. Photo credit: Megan Gibson.

A recreation of a painting by Bill Traylor of a pig.

Bill Traylor, Untitled (Pig with Corkscrew Tail), ca. 1940, pencil and opaque watercolor on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chuck and Jan Rosenak, 1983.11. Recreation by Mary and Betty Savig.  

A recreation of a painting by Alexander Archipenko of a torso against a blue background, but instead of a torso it’s a cat.

Alexander Archipenko, Torso in Space, 1952-1953, lithograph, color screenprint, and embossing on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1984.87. Recreation by Adam and Lola Rice. 

A recreation of a painting by John Singer Sargent of a woman seated with her hands folded.

John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Winthrop Chanler (Mrs. John Jay Chapman), 1893, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Chanler A. Chapman, 1980.71. Recreation by Kate Johnson and her cat, Pepperoni.

A recreation of a painting by Mabel Wellington Jack of a cat sleeping.

Mabel Wellington Jack, Young Cat Sleeping, 1937, lithograph on paper mounted on paperboard, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration, 1975.83.58. Recreation by Jess and Mo McFadden.

A recreation of an artwork by Jimmy Tsoutomu Mirikitani of a cat surrounded by bamboo.

Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, Cat in bamboo, Hiroshima, 2005, mixed media on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase made possible by the Ford Motor Company, 2008.32.1. Recreation by Anna and Bailey Rimel. 

A recreation of a painting by J. Alden Weir of a woman seated with a dog in her lap.

J. Alden Weir, Portrait of a Lady with a Dog (Anna Baker Weir), ca. 1890, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mahonri Sharp Young, 1977.92. Recreation by Davida Fernandez-Barkan.

A recreation of a painting by Percy Moran of a girl standing in a field with her greyhound.

Percy Moran, Young Girl and Dog, 1890, oil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Alfred Duane Pell, 1939.4.1. Recreation by Ariel and Chloe O’Connor. 

A recreation of a painting by Louis Bouche of a woman seated with a dog in her lap.

Louis Bouche, Woman and Dog, 1920, drypoint on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase, 1972.142. Recreation by Ryan and Sophia Linthicum.

We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into our lives, and we invite you to capture your dog/cat/bird/fish/plant/rock in an homage to a favorite artwork.  Tag us on social media with @AmericanArt and #atSAAM.

In addition to Amy Fox, Jessica McFadden, Luce Foundation Center Program Specialist, contributed to this blog post.

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